I don’t like it when people ask me about my masters; either on how I am progressing with it or what it is about. The former frustration is borne from the fact that I never have anything new to say, while the second is from the fact that I am doubting whether I can deliver. But it is important to talk about it and I think that now is a good time to start being honest about it.
I have become somewhat of a black sheep within the circle of masters students because of my decision to do an extra (third) year for my masters. This decision is not due to a massive scope; nor cannot I say it wasn’t one that I took lightly, for it naturally flowed out of year’s actions and inactions.
For the first year of my masters (last year) I worked two part time jobs. This does factor in somewhat in my poor progress last year. But I cannot blame the work for the extra year, as at the one place I worked I was shamed by someone who worked there full time, drove quite a distance between work and home, was married with children and also was studying part time. He spent an entire year’s worth of leave to only write exams. Full credit goes to that person, as it is something very few people would be able to muster. Certainly not me not then. The previous year had been extremely taxing on me academically, personally, emotionally and perhaps even spiritually. I therefore promised myself to take my masters easier and I did. And thus I am in the situation that I am now.
While last year I had zeal for my topic but aversion to work “double shifts”, this year I had the time, but a sickening nervousness about my work. Perhaps I am simply looking to place blame which should fall squarely on my laziness elsewhere, but I believe a factor other than pure laziness has been in play this year. I struggled for months and weeks organising and achieving things for my masters which should really only be a footnote or, at best, an appendix in the actual thesis. In between these struggles I ever so slowly waded through a sea of literature. While all this was happening, the sand was passing through what appears to be an ever widening bottleneck. I subsequently started to doubt myself. What I initially hope to achieve for my masters turned out to have taken a decade for several teams who actively work in the field. The promises I had made to others and myself about what I wanted to achieve towered over me like a malicious bully. The fact that my peers were making good progress with their masters (despite their protests to the contrary) wasn’t helping my self-esteem.
A few weeks ago I managed to confess my concerns and fears to a friend. Her advice was that I should take these concerns and fears to my advisor, which I did. I did not receive the pep talk I imagined I would, though, but, then again, if I did would it have helped at all? Rather, I was told how I should re-orientate myself around the subject matter: that I should not try and build Rome by myself, but at least to try and lay the foundations of some of the buildings. That would be enough. I suppose my aspirations for grandeur was actually very childish all along. I recognised that, have accepted it and can now start work on my masters as a masters student should. I am roughly now where I should have been a year ago, so with another year I should be able to finish. Perhaps, if I work hard enough now, I can even finished a couple of months before the required hand-in and give myself ample time to do some soul search about Life After Stellenbosch.
I am not angry that I have to study for another year. If anything, I am disappointed with my own efforts thus far, but I know that everything happens for a reason. As I said, the decision flowed naturally and was not one that was met with opposition and strive. I’ll have another year to spend at the church I found last year: a community friendly and honest believers. I would like to get involved there more and another year in Stellenbosch will help me do that. Another buffer year between now and The Real World will also let me look at myself, where I am and where I want to be, and help me achieve one of my greatest desires: to grow personally, emotionally and spiritually.